Stifling Hate Speech

An Anti-Terrorism Court on Monday sentenced former Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ) Rawalpindi President, Mufti Tanveer to six months in prison and a fine of Rs 50,000 for hate speech. ASWJ seems to be having a difficult year as first their leader, Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqui, was arrested earlier this year by the Counter-Terrorism Department for hate speech for which he was granted bail, and in September unidentified gunmen shot dead two activists of ASWJ on the street and fled the scene.

ASWJ is believed to be supporter of ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), for which the opposition often criticizes the government. The group is also considered to be the political face of extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), responsible for a number of violent attacks on minority Shias. Despite the government’s promise to seriously implement NAP under which the banned outfits are forbidden from charity collection, these groups have remained active. In order to garner their support base, they also remain vigorously involved in community services in populated areas like Orangi town where the ASWJ dug wells as part of their campaign to deliver public services and solidify support.

Even after the NAP’s formation, sectarian groups have openly held demonstrations and organised rallies. ASWJ itself was banned in 2012, according to officials at Pakistan’s Interior Ministry, familiar with the action. But the ban was never publicized, much less enforced—an effort that would pose serious challenges considering the group’s large network. The group’s leaders say they don’t advocate killing Shiites, though they publicly incite hatred against them and insist that Pakistan should declare them to be non-Muslims.
The recent rhetoric of the Army and the government, that no terrorists will be tolerated to operate in Pakistan, should extend to all banned outfits. Sectarian groups should not be tolerated under any pretence. Hopefully the Rangers operation in Punjab should bear similar results, as were witnessed in Karachi.

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